Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Research Byte: A new measure of imagination abiltiy



Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 18 April 2016 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00496

A New Measure of Imagination Ability: Anatomical Brain Imaging Correlates

  • 1Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA
  • 2Department of Neurosurgery, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA
  • 3Hunter Higgs, LLC, Boston, MA, USA
Imagination involves episodic memory retrieval, visualization, mental simulation, spatial navigation, and future thinking, making it a complex cognitive construct. Prior studies of imagination have attempted to study various elements of imagination (e.g., visualization), but none have attempted to capture the entirety of imagination ability in a single instrument. Here we describe the Hunter Imagination Questionnaire (HIQ), an instrument designed to assess imagination over an extended period of time, in a naturalistic manner. We hypothesized that the HIQ would be related to measures of creative achievement and to a network of brain regions previously identified to be important to imagination/creative abilities. Eighty subjects were administered the HIQ in an online format; all subjects were administered a broad battery of tests including measures of intelligence, personality, and aptitude, as well as structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (sMRI). Responses of the HIQ were found to be normally distributed, and exploratory factor analysis yielded four factors. Internal consistency of the HIQ ranged from 0.76 to 0.79, and two factors (“Implementation” and “Learning”) were significantly related to measures of Creative Achievement (Scientific—r = 0.26 and Writing—r = 0.31, respectively), suggesting concurrent validity. We found that the HIQ and its factors were related to a broad network of brain volumes including increased bilateral hippocampi, lingual gyrus, and caudal/rostral middle frontal lobe, and decreased volumes within the nucleus accumbens and regions within the default mode network (e.g., precuneus, posterior cingulate, transverse temporal lobe). The HIQ was found to be a reliable and valid measure of imagination in a cohort of normal human subjects, and was related to brain volumes previously identified as central to imagination including episodic memory retrieval (e.g., hippocampus). We also identified compelling evidence suggesting imagination ability linked to decreased volumes involving the nucleus accumbens and regions within the default mode network. Future research will be important to assess the stability of this instrument in different populations, as well as the complex interaction between imagination and creativity in the human brain.

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